For His Glory

Even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined myself standing in front of a mirror again with a book in my hand, slowly reading out loud and observing how my mouth forms different sounds. It’s kind of like going back to the days when I was just learning how to talk or how to read. The feeling is almost surreal. Surprisingly though, I have actually started to enjoy my practice time, although it sometimes feels strange and even a little uncomfortable. At eighteen years old, reading out loud to yourself can be—I  am searching for the right words—painfully humbling. Throughout our lives, I believe God often uses certain situations to humble us and to redirect our gaze towards Christ. I have no doubt that this is what He is trying to do through my stutter. In the moments when we feel the smallest, God finally has His rightful place in our hearts. He deserves all the glory and all of the praise, always. 

With the help of two fantastic books produced by the Stuttering Foundation, I’ve begun a new journey of self-therapy. For now, I’m just in the first stages of observing how my body responds to stuttering and identifying exactly what happens when I stutter. Once I know these two things, I can start taking some conscious steps toward curbing those responses and deciding what forms of therapy might be most effective for me. As I’ve mentioned a few times, my name is one of the hardest words for me to say. Only in the past few weeks though, as I’ve practiced reading out loud, have I realized how much tension actually grips my mouth when I try to form that ‘M’ sound. So every once in awhile, I repeat my name out loud multiple times in front of a mirror, watching my lips and trying to release the tension as soon as I feel it, if I can. Since the tension is completely involuntary, it can be hard to release sometimes, even when I try really hard. One of these days, I’m hoping my name will come out the first time…and that will be an amazing moment to praise God for!

Because it’s a neurological problem, stuttering cannot be completely cured. However, with lots of practice, someone who stutters can learn how to stutter more easily. By ‘easily,’ I mean stuttering without nearly as much bodily effort and tension. Basically, I’m on a journey to retrain my brain how to talk. (Sounds kind of daunting, huh? 🙂 ) Hopefully, as I constantly practice talking without tension and relaxing my muscles, my brain will start to develop a new speech pattern that will make speaking a little easier.

Setting aside time in each day to work on speech may not be what I envisioned for my life…but it was always God’s plan for my life. Before I was even born, God chose to make me part of that 1% of the population that stutters. Sometimes, there is nothing more painful than standing in front of someone, unable to say your own name. But in that moment of stuttering, when the ache in my heart to speak seems unbearable, God’s grace and comfort is never far behind. Just knowing that my stutter is a direct result of the loving hand of God heals that ache and brings wonderful peace to my heart.

Nothing takes God by surprise; He masterfully orchestrates every detail of our lives for our good, and most importantly, for His glory. 

“He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. . .he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.  For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.” ~Job 23: 10, 13-14~

Much love, Makenzie

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Choosing Thankfulness

Do your emotions ever get the best of you? Twice in the past two months, I have found myself standing in the kitchen with tears tumbling down my cheeks, my mom standing on the other side of the counter giving me counsel and encouraging me with God’s Word. She has such a special gift for making everyone feel better. I wasn’t sad…just a little overwhelmed. However, the purpose of this post is not to focus on how overwhelmed I was feeling, but to write about how thankful I am for the support of my family, and most importantly, for the grace of God that strengthens us in all of our weakest moments.

The past couple months, I have struggled with some anxiety about my future. I am quickly approaching exciting milestones in my life, like getting my license, applying for my first job, thinking about college, and graduating from high school! Thinking about all of these things thrills my heart with eager anticipation. But thinking about it also makes me more aware of my speech disfluency and how much it affects my life, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a particularly significant way. Verbal communication is essential to life; but yet, communication is the most daunting obstacle I face each day.

Fear can wreck so much havoc in our hearts if we do not take those thoughts captive to Christ. Just the other night, I shared with my mom how I had been thinking about my first job interview someday. When I reach out my hand to shake the interviewer’s hand, the first thing I will need to say is my name. My name…one of the hardest words for me to say. Ok, Lord, I will definitely need Your help to make it through this when the day comes! Could I maybe just tell him ‘Kenzie’ since that ‘M’ is SO difficult for me? 🙂  Before I know it, I’m dwelling on thoughts like this all day long, instead of resting in God. Eventually all of those thoughts just become too much for me to hold in anymore. In those moments, my parents are always, always there for me. I love them both with all my heart, and more. 

Finding a job will not be easy. Giving college presentations will not be easy. Communicating effectively throughout my life will not be easy. But God promises us that His grace is always sufficient: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I really don’t know what my life will look like with a stutter, but that’s OK. What I do know is that God’s grace will be sufficient for every day.

Sometimes, the struggle to communicate is unbelievably discouraging and overwhelming, especially the struggle to say my own name. But I must make the choice not to dwell on all of the difficult moments, and instead, to replace my fear with thankfulness. I can thank God for His amazing grace, for all the times that I am able to express my thoughts, and for all of the exciting things coming up in my life soon.

There will always be plenty of things to worry about or to be discouraged about in life, but if you really think about it, there is often much more to be thankful for.

much love, makenzie

Reach for the Stars

He shook my hand and did not let go until I had gotten my name out. Nobody had ever done that before. Seconds passed. He smiled kindly and said, “Take your time.”  Right then, I knew that I was about to experience something special. 

On Thursday night, I went to my very first NSA (National Stuttering Association) chapter meeting. I had been dreaming about going to one for years, so when the day finally came, I was absolutely thrilled. I had never met anyone else who stuttered. I always knew that there were thousands of people out there walking this same path with me, but I had never shaken their hands or heard their voices. I knew that it would be special going to one of these meetings, but I never could have prepared myself for what it would actually feel like to sit in a room full of people who understand each other so well that we could probably finish each other’s sentences. It was an experience that I will never forget.

I met eleven people on Thursday who inspired me beyond words with their courage, tenacity, and zeal for life. As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded that stuttering does not have to define what we achieve in life. None of them had let their stuttering keep them from chasing their dreams and doing what they love. They saw their stuttering as a gift that gave them so much more compassion for others. Since I was one of the youngest people in the group, most of the people there had made it through college already and were thriving in jobs that they loved. Just being with them and hearing their stories filled my heart with so much hope for the future. They were living proof that no star is too far out of reach.

During the meeting, I had the opportunity to share my own story with the group. As I spoke, I experienced a sense of freedom that I had never felt in all my life. In that room, we did not have to worry about how someone would react to us. When we looked up, all we saw were kind smiling faces. There was no fear, no hesitation, no doubts.  There was just love, and kindness, and friendship. It was like being with family.

Every one of us stuttered very differently, and I found such beauty in that. I loved listening to every unique voice. We were all so different, but yet, so alike because we were bound together by our mutual experiences. We talked about how we stutter so much more when we are tired or stressed and how we know right when we get up in the morning whether it will be a good or bad “speaking day.” We even laughed together about how hard it always is to say our names. We understood each other so well. I felt as if I was talking to people I had known forever. I felt HOME.

Words can not describe how I felt leaving that meeting. My heart felt like it would burst, and I was smiling down to my soul. I am not alone on this journey…and I never have been. Not only do I have the Lord walking beside me, but I have thousands of friends who stutter all over the world. I just haven’t met some of them yet.

Several of them remarked, “You know, life is still so good, in spite of everything.” Yes, it truly is. Never let your struggles, whether big or small, destroy your quality of life. Never stop loving this life. 

Two days later…I’m STILL smiling!

Much love, Makenzie

 

Reconciling Stuttering with Boldness

Is it possible to stutter boldly? On the surface, stuttering and boldness seem almost incompatible with one another. We often use the word stuttering in passing to describe the speech of someone who is paralyzed by fear, anxiety, or uncertainty–which, of course, is not the same as stuttering because of a neurological issue. My heart’s desire is to live boldly, never missing a single opportunity to proclaim Christ or to speak life into someone. But is boldness even possible when pauses and hesitations often mark my words? This is the topic I would like to explore today.

Many people who stutter may seem timid or unsure of themselves, merely because of the mannerisms that stuttering  produces. Understandably, a listener may interpret the pauses, hesitations, nervous gestures, and blocks as classic signs that the speaker lacks confidence both in himself and in his message. While people who stutter often do struggle with underlying insecurity, this assumption is not necessarily true for everyone. A person who stutters may be bold at heart; but the shaky words seem to transform the message in his heart from one of boldness into one of timidity on the way out, leaving the stutterer wondering if his words even reflected what was really in his heart. If I had to pick the most confusing aspect of stuttering, I think it would be how it affects the world’s perception of your message.

Stuttering is a constant battle between two identities~the person you are inside and the person people sometimes perceive you to be. Stuttering might make an extroverted person at heart seem shy or a confident person seem somewhat timid. However, I ultimately have an important choice to make. I can choose either to hide behind my stutter or to humbly praise the Lord for it, embrace it, and be who He really made me to be.

This is where the whole idea of stuttering boldly comes in. I am naturally a shy person, but I have often let stuttering silence me much more than just my quiet nature alone ever would have. Sadly, when I let my stutter silence me, I am choosing to be a victim of something that I believe in my heart God intended for good. I become so worried about how I sound that I let precious opportunities to be bold for Christ or to reach out to someone slip through my fingers. Only as I continue to cultivate humble gratitude and acceptance in my heart for my stutter will I be able to speak boldly.

Stuttering boldly is all about stuttering openly with a peace of mind that can only come from the Lord. It is about being okay with your words not always coming out the first time. I am not 100% there yet, but it definitely takes some time. When I get my first job, I will have to learn how to confidently ask questions, talk to customers, and express concerns, most likely stuttering on words here and there the whole time. But with boldness from the Lord flowing through my words, stuttering does not have to weaken the message.

Living with a stutter requires you to redefine what boldness means. Maybe… true boldness is more about what we say than how we say it. God can take any message, no matter how feebly delivered, and use it for His glory.

I once watched a video of someone who smiled the whole time they stuttered. That image has never left me. To me, that is one of the most beautiful pictures of stuttering boldly I have ever seen.

Much love, Makenzie

What Stuttering Teaches Me about Love

Stuttering may affect how I speak sometimes, but I am slowly learning that it never has to affect how I love. My struggles with speech have forced me to learn how to love with my actions more, especially when words completely fail. This very personal side of stuttering that affects my relationships and interactions with others is by far one of the most difficult things to cope with. Sometimes even the best speaking techniques do not help. In those situations, I often think to myself, “How can I still consistently show Christ-like love to others, without necessarily using words?” 

This is a question that I do not believe I would be asking myself today if I did not stutter. Stuttering has turned my view of love inside-out and upside-down; and I am very grateful for that. 

I am learning that love is not limited to what we say; love is also evidenced in what we do and in how we carry ourselves. Love in action may take on so many different forms~a smile, a hug, a kind look, simple acts of courtesy, and the list goes on and on. As children of God, our countenance alone can exude the love of Christ and shine a light on a dark world. Despite what we may see in the movies, love is not just about saying “I love you.” Love is more about showing someone that you love them with your actions. Love without action is not love at all.

On the days when my words cannot fully express my heart, I am left searching for some other way to make my voice heard. Imagine struggling to say something as simple as “Thank you for dinner” when someone pays for your meal. It is in these simple, everyday moments that I struggle most to express my love or gratitude to someone. In those moments, I try my best to say what I need to say; but if the words just won’t pass my lips, I turn to actions. Other times, I wait as long as needed until I am able to say it. I find some way to let that person know just how much I appreciate them and what they did for me.

It brings so much comfort to my heart to know that no matter how much I may stumble over my words sometimes, I can still love in action.  I am determined to not let my stutter define how I love the people in my life. In fact, I am praying that God would help me use my stutter to love people even more.

Of course, my stutter shouldn’t keep me from loving in word either. I must remember that even if my message is delivered a little broken, God can still use that message. The truth is, my desire to love needs to exceed my fear of stuttering. With God’s strength, I want to live fearlessly, never missing a single opportunity to show love.

Although it can be extremely frustrating living with a stutter, what it has taught me about love is a precious gift that I praise God for every single day. When words fail, all that I have left is action; and that is often an unexpected blessing.

much love, makenzie

 

 

Learning to Expect the Best

This will be a very short post, but I just want to say how encouraged I've been recently about how kind and patient most people are when I get stuck on a word. I don't mention this to in any way ask for sympathy, but because it has taught me so much about my perceptions of others. I think that sometimes all the negativity in the world leads us to believe that most people will be rude and impatient, but that is just not true.

Just in the past two days, I have struggled in front of two different cashiers; and both of them responded with nothing but patience and kindness. One even brightly smiled at me the whole time. Yes, I know that my stutter may show me the worst in someone one day, and in that moment I will have to rely on God's grace to help me. But for now, I am going to be grateful for how my stutter often reveals the best in others and teaches me to always look for the best.

Perceptions are often wrong. There are still nice people in this world. Always give someone a chance to prove that. ❤️

Much love, Makenzie

Eighteen

birthday-cake-candles

Eighteen…the age that every young teenager eagerly anticipates for years. Turning 18 is like taking your first small step into adulthood. It’s the age of legal responsibilities, voting privileges, bank accounts, and so much more. You’re technically still a teenager, yet the world starts viewing you as an adult. For most teenagers, turning 18 is one of those pinnacle birthdays.

I turned 18 on Monday. To be honest, my mind is swirling with mixed emotions. I am absolutely thrilled about starting my journey toward adulthood, yet…totally terrified about starting my journey toward adulthood.

Me? An adult? How can this be possible!?

When I woke up the morning of my 18th birthday, I started thinking about what adulthood might look like for me, as someone who stutters. I realize that turning 18 means that I will have to speak for myself much more than I used to. The world, understandably, expects more of me now. People expect me to be confident and a little more independent. They expect me to be able to clearly express my needs and concerns.

Am I ready for this? Will I struggle through every phone call, every job interview, every appointment? Will I still struggle to say my name a few years from now? 

All of these questions scare me, and if I allow them, they could just keep mounting in my heart like a huge wave, growing and growing and growing, until it eventually crashes over me and keeps me from living the life I know God wants me to live. God never intended for us to spend our lives drowning in a wave of fear and uncertainty. No matter how fearful my heart or how threatening the wave, God is greater.

On the other hand, something about turning 18 excites me so much. This is like opening a brand new chapter in my life.  And although it seems scary right now, I also realize that this chapter may contain some beautiful things. More opportunities to speak means more opportunities to speak life into someone’s darkness or to encourage someone with a kind word. Getting a job and venturing a little bit out on my own mean meeting new people and experiencing new things. Going to college means finally starting to pursue the passions God has placed in my heart.

I want my life as a young adult to matter. I want to shine for Christ and love others as He loves them. With or without my stutter, I want to go out into the world every day with a smile to share and the joy of the Lord in my heart.

Turning 18 forces me to start confronting everything I have avoided all my life. Ready or not, here comes a new adventure! 

Much love, Makenzie